Indians make things fresh, new at Progressive Field
Fan-friendly ballpark initiatives, reduced concession prices are in place for 2013
CLEVELAND -- On Oct. 4, the morning after a 9-0 loss at the hands of the White Sox that capped the Indians' third 90-loss season in four years, Cleveland's front office executives trudged into the ballpark searching for answers.
"The shoulders were drooped ... we were struggling," said Indians senior vice president of public relations Bob DiBiasio. "We were trying to figure out, 'How in the world are we going to sell Indians baseball after another promising season ended in disappointment?'"
So, the Indians cleared out 10 suites in Progressive Field and constructed The Collection Auto Club, a new 5,000-square-foot seating area located adjacent to the press box.
Oh, and they also hired two-time World Series-winning manager Terry Francona, signed free agents Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Mark Reynolds, and traded for right-hander Trevor Bauer and center fielder Drew Stubbs.
The Indians are hoping the 2013 campaign serves as the start of a new era in Cleveland, both on and off the field. The club drew 19,797 fans per game last season, second-fewest in the league. After a litany of offseason roster enhancements and a few fan-friendly ballpark initiatives, the organization sold out of tickets for the home opener against the Yankees in just six minutes.
"[The offseason] has changed completely the bounce and the step, not only with our fans, but in that clubhouse as well," DiBiasio said.
The Collection Auto Club seats 120 people on a season-ticket basis. As of Wednesday, the organization had sold more than 90 percent of the seats. Fans in the section will be treated to gourmet food selections, beer and wine.
Certain food and drinks around the remainder of the ballpark will feature reduced prices. Via a new "4-3-2-1" promotion, fans can purchase a 12-ounce beer for $4, a hot dog for $3, a soda refill for $2 and, on any of 15 Dollar Dog nights, a hot dog for $1.
"During the season when we reached out to our fans to find out what they wanted from us and other than winning a World Series, concessions prices was at the top of the list," DiBiasio said.
The Indians will also offer 20 giveaways during the course of the 2013 season, including bobbleheads of 11-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel and enigmatic slugger Albert Belle. Vizquel, in his first year as a roving infield instructor for the Angels, is expected to be present at Progressive Field on his bobblehead day on July 8.
Vizquel's ceramic replica will feature the defensive wizard dancing around second base, with eight Gold Gloves stacked in front of the bag and three piled together behind it. Vizquel won eight of his 11 awards during his 11 seasons in Cleveland.
Belle's bobblehead, per his request, will feature the power-hitting maestro pointing to his bicep, as he did during the 1995 American League Division Series after Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy questioned whether Belle had corked his bat.
"Albert had been emailing me the last couple of years saying, 'Where's my bobblehead? How come I don't have a bobblehead?" DiBiasio said. "He was the one who said, 'It has to be the pose from the Boston Red Sox game.'"
Belle, relishing the role of stay-at-home dad, is not expected to be in attendance on his bobblehead day, June 1, because his daughters have a dance recital.
The Indians will also honor six-time All-Star Rocky Colavito, who played eight of his 14 seasons with the franchise. The club will celebrate Colavito's 80th birthday on Aug. 10 with an Indians Hall of Fame plaque giveaway.
Though they'll honor the team's legends and summon ways to evoke a nostalgic feel around Progressive Field, the Indians also consider the 2012 season to be a distant memory. On and off the field, much has changed with the organization in less than six months.
"We needed to do something about that to get back in the good graces of our fans, to get the team going in the right direction," DiBiasio said.
"We think we've added the pieces to this core group of young players that's going to make this a championship-caliber team and have some terrific fun throughout the course of the season."